Macri, FIFA, and toxic agrochemicals

World champions in greenwashing

The term greenwashing refers to the marketing tactics deployed by companies to appear environmentally friendly to the public. The world’s largest multinational corporations have become experts in the use of such strategies to clean up their images. And the most proficient at it are those that contaminate the most.
Photo: Gerardo Iglesias

This art of “simulating” (“We finance some workshops on environmental education and eco-friendly good practices, while at the same time polluting rivers, streams, air, and soil”) has become increasingly widespread in recent years, as more and more scandals have erupted and these companies have lost some landmark lawsuits.

The Argentine daily Página 12 has just exposed a somewhat peculiar example of greenwashing featuring two major transnational corporations: FIFA, master of soccer, and the Indian company UPL (United Phosphorus Ltd), two giants with seemingly nothing in common.

The newspaper reports that Fundación FIFA, headed since January 2020 by former Argentine president Mauricio Macri, and the Mumbai-based company, signed an agreement in Zurich on October 11, 2021.

“I am very happy to announce that FIFA has partnered up with UPL, one of the most important companies in agricultural solutions, to work together toward two objectives that are key for the foundation: sustainable development and education,” Macri tweeted.

“With its experience” UPL would help FIFA “reduce emissions through more efficient stadiums, low-emission transportation, and sustainable waste management,” as well as through the “sustainable handling” of waste during the Qatar World Cup and other sporting competitions, and FIFA would participate in training courses under the “Soccer for Schools” program.

The partnership would also include “rewarding small farmers who adopt sustainable practices.”

“This is a wonderful and unique proposal by UPL, as it will mobilize millions of small farmers around the world and, through the use of technology, it will reduce water consumption and chemical misuse, while increasing production,” Macri enthused. FIFA and UPL: two standard-bearers of “sustainable development.”

Track record

The “real reality” is of course quite different. Neither of the two multinational corporations has a track record of respecting the environment or “the rights of the people,” as the former Argentine president is fond of saying. Quite the opposite, in fact.

UPL is considered to be one of the leading marketers of toxic agrochemicals in the world. The company has been fined both in its country of origin, India, and in Macri’s country of origin. And in South Africa too.

In Argentina, it was the sixth most fined company this year in the province of Buenos Aires for contaminating and mishandling waste and chemical product containers. The Provincial Sustainable Development Agency accused the company of endangering the environment and human health.

In Brazil, UPL was the fourth largest seller of toxic agrochemicals in 2020, in a country that consumes and authorizes them at a rate few can match. While it teams up with FIFA to implement an environmental education program in 30 rural schools, UPL will contribute with its products to the deforestation of the Amazon in order to expand the soybean frontier further into the rainforest.

A tad bit contradictory, but that is how these green propaganda things work.